Sell your cloak and buy a sword
This article may lend undue weight to fringe 'Christian anarchist' or 'Christian pacifist' interpretations of this biblical passage. (July 2018) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Fulfillment of prophecy interpretation
Christian anarchist Jacques Ellul and Christian pacifist John Howard Yoder do not believe Luke 22:36 overturns the many times Jesus urged his followers to turn the other cheek and not resist evil when confronted by violence during his Sermon on the Mount and years of ministry. They show when the passage is taken in context (Luke 22:36-38), Jesus is also aware of fulfilling prophecy and makes a surprising statement that two swords are "enough."
He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.” The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.” “That’s enough!” he replied.— Gospel of Luke 22:36-38, NIV
Ellul, Yoder and Archie Penner claim that two swords could not possibly have been "enough" to defend Jesus from his pending arrest, trial and execution, so their sole purpose must have been Jesus' wish to fulfill a prophecy (Isaiah 53:9-12). As Ellul explains:
The further comment of Jesus explains in part the surprising statement, for he says: "It is necessary that the prophecy be fulfilled according to which I would be put in the ranks of criminals" (Luke 22:36-37). The idea of fighting with just two swords is ridiculous. The swords are enough, however, to justify the accusation that Jesus is the head of a band of brigands. We have to note here that Jesus is consciously fulfilling prophecy. If he were not the saying would make no sense.
This theory is further substantiated by Peter when Peter draws one of the swords a few hours later at Jesus' arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, slashing the ear of Malchus, one of the priests' servants, and Jesus rebukes him saying: "Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword."(Matthew 26:52)
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, in their 1871 biblical commentary, indicate "...And He said to them, It is enough - not 'Two swords will suffice,' but 'Enough of this for the present'. The warning had been given, and preparation for coming dangers hinted at; but as His meaning had not been apprehended in the comprehensive sense in which it was meant, He wished to leave the subject".
Motyer, Stibbs and Wiseman in New Bible Commentary: Revised Third Edition (1977) states:
35-38- Finally, Jesus spoke of the new situation. Formerly, when the Disciples had gone out, on mission, they had not lacked anything. Now they would need a purse, a bag and even a sword. The saying is heavily ironical, for Jesus knew that now He would have to face universal opposition and be put to death. But the disciples misunderstood Him and produced weapons. 'That is enough', said Jesus to end a conversation which they had failed to understand. The way of Jesus, as they should have known, was not the way of the sword, but of love.
Theologian John Gill said in his Exposition of the Entire Bible:
These words of Christ are not to be understood literally, that he would have his disciples furnish themselves with swords at any rate, since he would never have said, as he afterwards does, that two were sufficient; which could not be enough for eleven men; or have forbid Peter the use of one, as he did in a very little time after this: but his meaning is, that wherever they came, and a door was opened for the preaching of the Gospel, they would have many adversaries, and these powerful, and would be used with great violence, and be followed with rage and persecution; so that they might seem to stand in need of swords to defend them: the phrase is expressive of the danger they would be exposed to, and of their need of protection; and therefore it was wrong in them to be disputing and quarrelling about superiority, or looking out for, and expecting temporal pomp and grandeur, when this would be their forlorn, destitute, and afflicted condition; and they would quickly see the affliction and distress begin in himself. In "seven" ancient copies of Beza's, it is read in the future tense, "he shall take, he shall sell, he shall buy".
- Christoyannopoulos, Alexandre (2010). Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel. Exeter: Imprint Academic. pp. 109–110.
Two swords could not possibly have been 'enough' to defend Jesus from his pending arrest, trial and execution, so their sole purpose must have been Jesus' wish to fulfill a prophecy
- Ellul, Jacques (1988). Anarchy and Christianity. p. 64.
The further comment of Jesus explains in part the surprising statement, for he says: 'It is necessary that the prophecy be fulfilled according to which I would be put in the ranks of criminals' (Luke 22:36-37). The idea of fighting with just two swords is ridiculous. The swords are enough, however, to justify the accusation that Jesus is the head of a band of brigands. We have to note here that Jesus is consciously fulfilling prophecy. If he were not the saying would make no sense
- Robert Jamieson, A.R.Faussett and David Brown A Commentary, Critical, Experimental, and Practical on the Old and New Testaments Volume 3, Part One. William B. Erdsmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids Michigan, reprinted 1976, p.329 notes pertaining to Luke 22 vss 35 and 36
- D.Guthrie, J.A. Motyer, A.M. Stibbs, D.J Wiseman, The New Bible Commentary: Revised Third Edition Guideposts, Carmel New York. p 921 in reference to Luke 22:35-38